Jeppson’s Limited-Edition Pumpkin Spice Malört is good. Not good for Malört. Not good for pumpkin spice. It’s good good.
It shouldn’t make any sense. Yet it makes perfect sense.
The entire premise of Malört is that it’s bad. It’s even on the bottle: “Jeppson’s Malört has the aroma and full-bodied flavor of an unusual botanical. Its bitter taste is savored by two-fisted drinkers.” This isn’t a revelation — it’s quality branding and marketing that’s seen the 90-year-old liquor become ubiquitous over the last decade. After purchasing the brand in 2018, CH Distillery is putting an autumnal spin on the classic bad liquor for the first time. Jeppson’s Pumpkin Spice Malört is available for one more day (read: today, Halloween) at CH Distillery in the West Loop. All of the proceeds from the $8 shot go towards the nonprofit Punk Rock Saves Lives.
I went in thinking it would be a fun, dumb experience that would taste horrible — but I’d feel okay nonetheless, since the money is going to a good cause.
I was partially wrong.
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Jeppson’s Limited-Edition Pumpkin Spice Malört is way more palatable than Jeppson’s Malört. Way more. You want to finish the pumpkin spice shot. In fact, it’s best enjoyed sipped. Neat. Not over ice, not downed in one gulp, but slowly. The classic Malört aftertaste is still present in the pumpkin spice version, but as a whole, this aftertaste is — dare I say — pleasant?
How is this good? Is this just good liquor? Is this the best thing that’s ever happened to Malört? (No, that’s silly — the DIY marketing by a few people in the early 2010s that led to the creation of the Chicago Handshake is the best thing that’s ever happened to Malört.)
I would like to point out I took this shot entirely sober, at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. It wasn’t part of a Chicago Handshake. I wasn’t under the weather and hoping a shot might clear my sinuses. I didn’t lose a bet. I wasn’t hungover. I don’t seek out pumpkin spice lattes or cookies or anything else Trader Joe’s does to normal items to make them pumpkin spice seasonal offerings as soon as the first green leaf shows a tinge of autumnal color. I didn’t have a bad day and need (“need”) a shot. I willingly drank this pumpkin spice shot at peak physical condition and of sound mind. How is it this good?
As of now, the only way to enjoy this beverage is at CH Distillery. There’s talk of bottling it for general sale next year, possibly in a 50ml mini-bottle. I see the pros and cons of offering something better than the flagship product on a large scale.
The pros are obvious: The thing tastes good. The novelty of a pumpkin spice liquor seems like it’ll sell well from Labor Day through Thanksgiving every year.
The cons are also obvious. Malört isn’t supposed to be good. Would this sully the (bad) reputation of the taste of Malört? Is it a liquor brand’s responsibility to keep the status quo? Are we approaching New Coke territory?
Nah. It’s good Jeppson’s Limited-Edition Pumpkin Spice Malört is good. Get it while you can. It should come back next year. I hope CH Distillery once again donates proceeds to Punk Rock Saves Lives or another nonprofit. It’ll take eons for a pumpkin spice-flavored liquor to overtake the flagship bad taste. Here’s hoping for a Pumpkin Spice Chicago Handshake(™?) across the city for the next spooky season.
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